Just before Christmas, I purchased an external DVD writer: Sony 16X External DVD+/-RW Double Layer Drive (DRX810UL). This DVD/CD Burner comes with a USB 2.0 port and IEEE1394 (Firewire/i.Link) port (4-pin and 6-pin), a USB cable, IEEE1394 cable, AC adaptor, stand, Nero software and a manual. I paid $139.97 CDN plus tax at Staple Business Depot. The drive can be placed vertically or horizontally. A mirrored door covers the front of the drive, protecting it from the prying hands of kids.
Using the IEEE1394 port and cable, I attached the drive to my computer. It was instantly recognized by Windows XP SP2. Next, I installed the Nero software (and removed the old Roxio software that came with my laptop). My first test was a backup of my digital photos. I fired up Nero, selected the My Pictures folder and burned my first DVD (Maxell DVD-R 8X 4.7GB). I experienced no problems with the burn. The drive can become noisy at times, but for the most part it was quiet. I have the drive in the vertical position (though I may use it in the horizontal position when I rearrange my desk).
The drive comes with a power switch, unlike my Maxtor external hard drive. It also has an eject button (on the top when vertical, and on the right when horizontal). All in all, a nice little package from Sony.
For some information on which DVD discs are good, read this article at the CDR Zone website.